266 THE EGYPTIAN PROBLEM CHAP.
Nationalism is deeply tinged with Mahomedan fanaticism there had always been reason to suspect, and for months past it had been very noticeable that almost all the turbulent demonstrations, usually ending in violence, originated in popular gatherings held inside the mosques, where the most fiery speeches could be made with impunity. But though El Azhar was known to be a hotbed of anti-British agitation and the great majority of its students had been allowed to desert the university in order to perambulate the country and to preach the boycott in the rural districts, its authorities had never yet openly identified themselves \vlth the Party of Independence. They at last found an excuse in an incident which the extremists seem to have* carefully prepared. Students from El Azhar had been devoting their attention for some days to the native shopkeepers in the bazaars adjoining the university, and trying to force them to close their shops as a- protest against the Commission. The shopkeepers, peace-loving folk with a keen eye to business, objected and applied for protection. A small party of British soldiers was accordingly sent, to maintain order and drove off a truculent hand of A/Jiaritcs, who at first made u show of resistance and then lied down a small street, to Kl Axhar, whence, as soon as they thought themselves wife within its sacred precincts, they threw Htoncnat their pursuers. Neither the young British officer nor his men knew anything about 101 A'/Jwr and they fell into the trap. They only knew that they wen* being Htoned from u native* building, and a few men rushed the passage leading to the courtyard of the mosque and followed their assailants up a side staircase. They wen- promptly withdrawn when tin* ofiieer realised that if. was a religious building. .But the authorities of El Azhnr were determined to see in thin unlucky incident a deliberate violation of their sacred premises, and uddrraed an indignant protest to Lord Alle-nby, who hastened, it inny be added, to return an extremely eonciluilory reply, explaining the circumstunet-H mid only drawinghad committed the heinous offencecially in o particular case which Egyptian public opinion, rightly that Egypt' wan quit** unripe for such democratic